Coming Out in the NCAA
The Reappearing Act: Coming Out as Gay on a College Basketball Team Led by Born-Again Christians
Kate Fagan frames her memoir, The Reappearing Act, around sports, the dominant motif in her life. Fagan was a Division I athlete at University of Colorado whose father had played at Colgate University and then professionally overseas. The memoir opens with Fagan's junior year and Colorado's appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Then she lets the reader in on what had previously been a secret she kept in the strictest confidence: She's gay.
Fagan's work as a reporter for ESPNW serves her well in relating her own story. She's a confident writer, showering her prose with colorful anecdotes about her family. Notable as well are her teammates and the support system she encountered, built, strengthened and, eventually, lost at Colorado. There are times the reader can almost forget the book's focus: the difficulty of coming out at all.
There are other times, though, where that focus is unavoidable and overpowering. The conflict Fagan feels between religion (or faith, or fellowship, whatever buzz word you want to use) and homosexuality begins early and refuses to let up for the duration. Fagan's teammates push her into the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which she embraces enthusiastically—at first. Rather quickly though, she questions the group's condemnation of a variety of people, including homosexuals. Narrating from her present about her past, she pulls no punches. She says if she was approached by the FCA now, she'd run the other direction. For people of a certain spiritual bent, this will be disturbing. For those who've had their sexuality questioned or who've been told they could be cured, it will ring true in some very painful ways.
The memoir is guided by Fagan's differing relationships with both family and friends; the back and forth with her parents is powerful, but the true tests come via her teammates and most of all her closest friend, Dee. Fagan provides sparkling detail without an overly academic voice that makes for superb reading the whole time. The Reappearing Act is a supremely important story for our time, one that is worth reading (almost) no matter what. Those with fundamentalist views on the Bible—those who see homosexuality as an unforgivable sin—will be the only ones unable, or unwilling, to read this compelling story. And that's the most unfortunate part because they're the ones who would benefit the most.